Town of Johnstown resident Robert J. Smullen, executive director at the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District, on Wednesday announced he is seeking the Republican nomination for the state’s 118th Assembly District seat. The seat is currently occupied by Assemblyman Marc W. Butler, R-Newport, who is retiring at the end of the year and who also attended the event.
“Let us go forth and do great things together,” Smullen told well-wishers, during his announcement in downtown Johnstown. Supporters wore red Smullen hats and took campaign signs home.
Utilizing the historic Fulton County Courthouse as a backdrop, the 49-year-old retired Marine Corps colonel said he was up to the task.
Following his announcement, he was asked what the top legislative issue is for the 118th District.
“It’s really jobs and making sure the economy works for all of the people,” Smullen responded.
If he wins, Smullen would be the first Assembly member from Fulton County since the late, longtime Assemblyman Glenn H. Harris of Gloversville, who retired in 1991.
Smullen is currently the third Republican to announce his candidacy in the district, which consists of Fulton, Hamilton, Oneida, Herkimer and St. Lawrence counties. Other GOP candidates are Patrick Vincent and Philip Lloyd Paige. Keith Rubino is the only declared Democrat seeking Butler’s seat.
Speaking prior to Smullen’s announcement was Fulton County Republican Committee Chairwoman Sue McNeil. She said her committee will meet in a couple weeks and may endorse a candidate. But in remarks before the crowd, McNeil seemed to endorse Smullen.
“I am so proud to be able to be standing here for this wonderful announcement,” McNeil said. “This is Fulton County’s seat to win.”
McNeil went on to discuss Smullen’s military service, adding that local Republicans “stand behind him” and that he “will” take Butler’s seat.
Smullen’s town supervisor, Republican Jack Wilson, gave the gathering some of Smullen’s biography. The candidate is married and has four children. Smullen attended Meco-McNab Elementary School and is a 1986 graduate of Gloversville High School. He attended Georgetown University of Foreign Service and the National Defense University, serving in the Marine Corps and achieving the rank of colonel before retiring in 2015.
Smullen fought in Afghanistan after the 2001 terrorist attacks, Wilson said.
“Take a look around you here today,” Smullen stated. “We are blessed to live in this environment. We the people deserve a place that can be reimagined.”
Smullen said he worked a decade with his family’s construction business, learning great values.
“I watched my family making a positive impact in the community,” he said.
Smullen said of himself: “My ability to work with people of all walks of life has been tested.” He said he loves his hometown and loves his state.
“With the right leadership, our state can become more successful,” Smullen said.
But he said a state legislator needs to be a “servant leader” – a citizen whose main goal is to put others first, as well as the “needs of the community.”
“I also believe in the absolute importance in having a candidate you can believe in and trust,” Smullen said. “My mission for you will be to fight and talk and build. I’m not afraid to stand up for others.”
Smullen concluded his announcement by saying he was “very excited” to have the opportunity to represent the 118th Assembly District. He said he’ll work toward positive change.
“I also plan to talk with our leaders,” he said.
Smullen said he will “make sure this is a democracy put in place for you.” He said he will listen to those who are burdened by taxes or student loan debt. He said legislators can create a better Empire State. He said he will listen to people’s problems and provide “respect, dignity and compassion.”
“I’d be honored to be your voice in Albany,” Smullen said.
A reception for the candidate followed the announcement at the Holiday Inn.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]